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Humans have been kissing each other for 4,500 years, scientists find

Scientists previously believed kissing originated in South Asia 3,500 years ago, but writings suggest the practice dates back even further.
Humans have been kissing each other for 4,500 years, scientists find
Posted at 2:33 PM, May 19, 2023

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen examined the origins of kissing and found that humans began giving each other smooches earlier than previously thought. 

Before their study, the common thought was that the practice of kissing began around 3,500 years ago in South Asia. This culminated in a rise in the spread of herpes. 

But based on findings released in the journal Science, scientists found evidence the practice of kissing dates back 4,500 years to Mesopotamia. They believe the practice may have even been well-established at that point. 

Scientists say their findings are based on clay tablets with writings found in present-day Iraq and Syria. 

"Many thousands of these clay tablets have survived to this day, and they contain clear examples that kissing was considered a part of romantic intimacy in ancient times, just as kissing could be part of friendships and family members' relations," Troels Pank Arbøll, study co-author, said in a press release. "Therefore, kissing should not be regarded as a custom that originated exclusively in any single region and spread from there but rather appears to have been practiced in multiple ancient cultures over several millennia."

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Sophie Lund Rasmussen, who joined Arbøll in his research, noted how humans aren’t the only species that kiss. 

"In fact, research into bonobos and chimpanzees, the closest living relatives to humans, has shown that both species engage in kissing, which may suggest that the practice of kissing is a fundamental behavior in humans, explaining why it can be found across cultures," Rasmussen said. 

The scientists said that although kissing may play an unintentional role in the transmission of diseases, further research is needed to examine what role kissing played in disease transmission in past societies. 

"If the practice of kissing was widespread and well-established in a range of ancient societies, the effects of kissing in terms of pathogen transmission must likely have been more or less constant," said Rasmussen.

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